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Children and Terror 
by Alexander Podrabinek

Published by Prima Human Rights News Service
September 2004

On this photograph are not the children who have died in Beslan. On this photograph are bodies of the Chechen children who died by the hand of the Russian army in autumn 1999. Their deaths did not warrant the call-up of the UN Security Council, and Dr. Roshal did not rush to the scene of the tragedy with water and medicines to try and persuade terrorists to spare children’s lives.They were Chechen children, and Russia did not shudder at the horror of the crime it committed. It simply did not notice. 

Imagine a well-fed hefty fellow beating up a man in a busy street. He twists his arms, kicks him on the kidneys and head; he beats him methodically day after day in broad daylight. From time to time an educated passer-by would stop in indignation and attempt to appeal to the ggressor’s conscience. A journalist would come by, look at what’s happening and write a report in his newspaper: beating continues at the crossroads, but the man beaten is seemingly losing the ability to defend himself. A foreign correspondent would drive by, photograph this disgrace and write in his foreign newspaper: a little man is being continuously tortured at the crossroads in Russia; is it not time the Russian authorities responded? However, nobody really cares about the little man’s fate. And so it goes on until the half-dead man, bleeding and mad with pain manages by a stroke of luck to pull out a gun and fire. He shoots the aggressor, the passers-by, the journalists running past and children crossing the road. He is overcome by the only desire: to break free and save his life. 

It is only then that an unimaginable public outcry raises. "He uses unlawful methods," shout clever lawyers from TV screens. "We condemn any violence used non-selectively," nod grey heads from parliamentary tribunes and international organizations. "We must restrain terrorists and everyone who helps them," shout patriots — uniformed or otherwise — on every corner, shedding bitter tears over a small wound on the aggressor’s body stunned by the resistance. 

Who has noticed the deaths of 40,000 Chechen children during the years of Russia’s war against Chechnya? Where were then all those who today have brought down their righteous anger on the ‘untermenschen’ who are holding schoolchildren hostage in Beslan? Is it not hypocrisy to be upset about the possible deaths of some children and remain indifferent to the deaths of other? 

Propaganda is our government’s job. President Putin says that his main concern in the present situation is the fate of the hostages. This was what he said two years ago during the events of Nord-Ost, and then Russian special forces gassed 120 hostages to death in cold blood and fired control shots in the heads of 40 terrorists. Chechen mujahidins still believe that Putin will not be prepared to kill all the hostages again, especially children, that he will begin negotiations and political resolution of the Russian-Chechen conflict, that the war could be stopped as it had been by Basaev in Boudyonnovsk. 

But today’s president had an altogether different schooling, whereby he had 
not been taught compassion, justice or law. He had been taught to achieve the ends by whatever means, and will continue to do so even at a cost of children’s lives. Why, having taken the lives of thousands of Chechen children, would he suddenly stop at having to take the lives of hundred and fifty young Ossetians? 

There was a simple and sound solution to the horrific situation in Beslan: stop Russian terror in Chechnya to spare the lives of the hostages, or at least, begin negotiations with Maskhadov’s government in exchange for the release of the children. It must be understood that the terrorists’ only demand — to stop the war in Chechnya and give peace to its people — is concrete enough and absolutely justified.  It is impossible to justify terror, especially against children. But it is possible to understand the reasons. It would have been sanctimonious to deny the fact that Chechens’ response to terror is terror. Until Russia stops the violence in Chechnya, terrorist war will continue. 

 Alexander Podrabinek is an editor in chief of the Prima News Human Rights Service. The Prima News Human Rights Service web site may be found at

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